By Kaitlyn Campbell
The Clare Public Schools bond proposal that was voted down in May will be on the ballot again in November with changes.
After listening to feedback from the community after the proposal in May was turned down by voters, the school has made some changes to the proposal, which includes reducing the total cost of the now $49.85 million project (originally $66 million), provides examples of cost impact to homeowners, provides a better explanation of the funding recommendation, and saves a portion of the existing middle school for future growth.
There are many ways in which the project is now different from the May proposal. According to a PowerPoint presentation on the school’s website from the July 2023 Board meeting, because of the community feedback about reducing the cost, the school had to have conversations with their architects and construction management, reducing their fees and eventually had a change in architects to The Collaborative. The Board has committed to contributing $4 million towards the overall project and lower the millage impact on voters by 1 mill. There is now a more straightforward design of the new high school building, which is two stories in two wings, and they prioritize academic spaces while reducing the square footage of the project by nearly 30%. There is also an elimination of ‘extras’, including a walking track, space for choir, one industrial arts space, smaller classrooms, one less parking lot, auxiliary classrooms and converting a gym to an auditorium rather than building one.
As a summary of the proposal, Clare Public Schools would like to construct a new high school building and renovate the old one into the middle school. They would also like to convert the middle school gym into an auditorium as well as demolish the 1922 middle school building, salvaging any memorabilia from it. They would then like to relocate the entrance for the middle school to the other side of the building and move district administration into the current high school administration space. Site work would include utilities, excavation, circulation and parking and house demolition, as well as technology and furnishings.
The primary school would also gain additional classrooms, according to an FAQ document found on the school’s website.
“The connecting corridor that currently houses fifth grade middle school classrooms will now be kept and repurposed. These additional classrooms will allow us to enter into early childhood/preschool programming for the district & community, as well as adjust class size when necessary.”
The following is the proposal that will be on the ballot:
“Shall Clare Public Schools, Clare and Isabella Counties, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed Forty-Nine Million Eight Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($49,850,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of: erecting, furnishing, and equipping additions to school buildings; remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping school buildings; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; and preparing, developing, and improving playgrounds and sites.
“The following is for informational purposes only: The estimated millage that will be levied for the proposed bonds in 2024, under current law, is 6.10 mills ($6.10 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation), for a 4 mills net increase over the prior year’s levy. The maximum number of years the bonds of any series may be outstanding, exclusive of any refunding, is twenty-nine (29) years. The estimated simple average annual millage anticipated to be required to retire this bond debt is 5.68 mills ($5.68 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation).
“The school district does not expect to borrow from the State to pay debt service on the bonds. The total amount of qualified bonds currently outstanding is $1,270,000. The total amount of qualified loans currently outstanding is $0. The estimated computed millage rate may change based on changes in certain circumstances.
“(Pursuant to State law, expenditure of bond proceeds must be audited and the proceeds cannot be used for repair or maintenance costs, teacher, administrator or employee salaries, or other operating expenses.)”
For the budget of the proposal, $39.76 million of the $49.85 million preliminary total will go to the construction of the new high school while the rest of it will go to converting the current high school to the middle school ($1.84 million), renovating the elementary wing ($1.32 million), converting the middle school gym to an auditorium ($3.5 million), decommissioning and removing the old middle school ($1.05 million), site development ($450,000), technology ($418,000) and furnishings ($220,000).
Their financing strategy includes paying off some existing debt with District Funds. This will reduce the millage impact on voters by 1 mill. There will also be a recommendation to transfer approximately $670,000 from general fund to the bond project when the bond issue passes.
Benefits of the proposal, which are listed in the PowerPoint presentation mentioned earlier, include improved educational opportunities and learning environments, safety and security enhancements, healthy environments, specifically when it comes to indoor air quality, energy savings, and a renovated connector wing to provide for pre-K education and class size reduction.
According to the PowerPoint, “Our current main facilities are 51, 63, and 101 years old. They burden the operating budget and funnel funds away from students and programs.”
The bond election came about from Clare Public Schools because of the amount of talks about upgrades to the buildings, according to the FAQ document.
“There have been discussions over many years regarding updating and improving our facilities for our students, and several more detailed conversations in recent years. There are many needs, and our middle school building warrants major repairs or replacement. In addition, the High School curriculum is incorporating more emphasis on construction trades, technology, robotics and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education. In order to provide these skills, new spaces need to be provided.
“The Board sought feedback after the May election, and has decided that now is the time for these improvements and directed the administration and consultants to present those ideas to the community for input and feedback.”
If you would like to know more information about the bond proposal, which includes the document with the rest of the FAQs, you can visit the school’s website, www.clare.k12.mi.us/o/cps/page/bond, or call superintendent Jim Walter at (989) 386-9945.